Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iraq--CSOs Gear Up for Campaign Against Draft Law

The UN’s Programme on Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR) reports that Civil Society Organizations in Iraq are rejecting a draft law that regulates their work.  Citing Al Hayat, POGAR says that the Iraqi government published in early 2009 a draft law for regulating the activities of non-governmental organizations. The draft law met wide criticism at that time because it imposes heavy monitoring on the activities of more than 8500 operating in Iraq. The Iraqi government ignored all criticisms and referred the draft law to parliament for approval. The head of the Committee on Civil Society Organizations in the Iraqi parliament, Mrs. Ala Talabani, said that the draft law is very unfair and that the parliamentary committee wrote down many observations concerning the draft law that will be discussed in the new legislative session. Mr. Falah Alousi, a member of the “Rafidain Peace” NGO said that the draft law seeks to put NGOs and human rights organizations under severe supervision by state agencies, and also aims to interfere in the affairs of civil society organizations. He added that most NGOs have reservations against article pertaining to funding. The draft law stipulates that before establishing an NGO, the “Ministry of Civil Society Organizations” must approve the source of funding of that NGO. However, the draft law did not set criteria for acceptable funding, thereby rendering the Ministry’s approval arbitrary and selective. On the other hand, a high ranking government official said that the draft law was prepared by the government after it received information about the lack of organizational structures and work mechanisms of some NGOs; the lack of experience to build a proper NGO by others; in addition to turning of some NGOs into a personal venture by only appointing relatives and friends. Still, other NGOs were extensions of political parties and religious, sectarian or ethnic movements. The official added that many Iraqi NGOs are lacking in democratic practice and their leading bodies are not chosen through election; many also do not make any initiatives and are poor at the intellectual and practical levels. On the other hand, many Iraqi civil society organizations are preparing to wage a vast campaign against the draft law when the parliament’s begins its discussion of the draft law.  CIVICUS, the international civil society organization, has already prepared comments on the draft legislation, urging that it not be adopted in its current form.




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